Dance Break - Review of Where the Blood Mixes
Nicole Decsey takes a break from all things dance to review the powerful Canadian play Where the Blood Mixes, now playing at Soulpepper Theatre.
There are so many untold stories. Stories that never made it into poems or history books. Not because they were unimportant or because they had no relevance, but simply because there was no one left to tell them. Or no one alive who wanted to tell them. Some stories are just too hard to relive. Kevin Loring, the playwright of Where the Blood Mixes, writes from lived experiences of indigenous people and sets this play in the village where he grew up. A village that was recently devasted by a wildfire that lasted three days during the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Canada. A tragedy that has caused the indigenous community to relocate once again.
Where the Blood Mixes is about family and history and the place where the two mix. Director Jani Lauzon took the time to talk to Kevin Loring and to understand the history and inspirations for the play. The story is situated in real experiences and provokes a sense of drowning both literally and figuratively. The characters can’t seem to come up for air and catch a breath. The image of water and drowning was a fresh and captivating way to talk about issues such as depression, and to show how everyone is affected equally by the past and the present. The water doesn’t care who you are, no one can escape the tragedy of residential schools. The feeling of drowning is not only illustrated in the script and the acting but also in the stage design and the projections. Every detail was tied into the suffocating yet freeing feeling of being lost to the tide. Even the gambling was about water, to win you had to get three beavers. It was a beautiful and tragic metaphor about life pulling you under and not letting go.
The characters in Where the Blood Mixes do not come up for air, they simply cannot fight the current. Subsequently there is not much redemption in the stories being put on display which can make it hard for an audience to watch. Without any hope, people can go away from this show feeling empty and hollow. Even though that may be the whole point, it is still a lot to ask of your viewer. For this reason, it is pleasing that resources for help can be found at the back of the provided digital or hard copy program. The show you are about to see is not for the faint of heart.
The intensity of the play is powerful for the audience and actors alike. For the actors, their job is not only to deal with and address the material every time they dive into the work but to also pay due respect to the people who have lived the experiences that they are recreating on the stage. Without a doubt they offered this respect and told the story with such conviction as to leave the crowed with thoughts to chew on and goosebumps to add a chill to a hot summer night. The live music was an excellent touch, but having the guitarist as a character within the narrative could have been utilized more. It felt like a missed opportunity.
Where the Blood Mixes is an excellent play that deals with important and relevant issues. It talks about problems that have been ignored for too long and need to be brought to light. It does so in a sensitive yet demanding way by honoring those who came before, and by not sugar coating the reality. These are the stories we need to start telling.
Where the Blood Mixes is playing now until June 26th at Soulpepper Theatre. Buy tickets here.